Second Major Utility Agrees To Cut Acid Rain Emissions
Attorney General Spitzer and federal officials today announced that one of the nation's largest electric utility companies has agreed to slash pollution levels at 10 Midwest power plants that cause acid rain and smog in New York.
The agreement with the Ohio-based Cinergy Corp. is the largest of its kind ever and comes a month after Attorney General Spitzer helped negotiate a similar agreement with a mid-Atlantic utility.
"We are gaining momentum in the fight for cleaner air," Spitzer said. "This agreement is the second in what we hope will be a succession of negotiated settlements that dramatically reduce levels of pollutants fouling the air in New York and other Northeast states. If we can build on our success there is real hope for a recovery of the lakes and forests of the Adirondacks, and for a significant improvement in urban air quality."
Under the agreement, Cinergy will spend at least $1.4 billion over 12 years to reduce its emissions of sulfur dioxide by 409,000 tons annually and of nitrogen oxides by 101,000 tons per year - a two-thirds reduction in air pollution that causes acid rain and smog and triggers asthma attacks. These pollution reductions will be accomplished by Cinergy installing state-of-the-art smokestack scrubbers and other advanced technologies at several of its power plants and converting three power plants from using coal to natural gas as a fuel source.
Cinergy has also agreed to pay $8.5 million in penalties to the federal government. The company will also fund environmental projects valued at $21.5 million, a portion of which will be spent in New York. In addition, the company will permanently surrender 50,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution credits.
Spitzer joined federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner and Lois Schiffer of the federal Department of Justice in making the announcement. New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and a coalition of Midwest environmental organizations also joined New York's action and participated in the negotiations.
Smokestack pollution from coal burning power plants in Midwestern and mid-Atlantic states falls as acid rain and snow over New York, devastating lakes and forests in the Adirondacks, Catskills and Hudson Highlands and damaging water quality in Long Island Sound. The acidic emissions also trigger asthma attacks and eat away the stonework on the state's monuments and historic buildings, including the Capitol Building and the Statue of Liberty.
The Cinergy settlement was broadly hailed by environmentalists and public health advocates.
Timothy Burke, executive director of The Adirondack Council, said: "With this step, Attorney General Spitzer has cemented his reputation as a clean air champion and Cinergy Chairman James Rogers has established his company as an environmental leader among the nation's utilities. This monumental agreement will turn heads in Washington. Congress should follow their example and act this coming session to stop acid rain."
Peter Iwanowicz, director of environmental health for the American Lung Association of New York said: "The settlement achieved by New York Attorney General Spitzer, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Justice is another big win for public health. Power plant air pollutants cut short the lives of 30,000 Americans and cause 20,000 hospital admissions and 603,000 asthma attacks each year. This settlement will lower these numbers and bring us another important step closer to mitigating the health threats posed by power plant air emissions."
Spitzer praised Cinergy for taking the initiative and seeking a settlement rather than delaying the process of reducing air pollution. "Cinergy is demonstrating leadership and it is acting as a responsible corporate citizen. The company is the first in the Midwest to settle and it is setting an example that others in the utility industry would do well to emulate."
The agreement with Cinergy covers the following coal-fired power plants:
- Cayuga, Cayuga, IN;
- Gallagher, New Albany, IN;
- Wabash River, West Terre Haute, IN;
- Beckjord, New Richmond, OH;
- Gibson, Owensville, IN;
- Miami Fort, North Bend, OH;
- Zimmer, Moscow, OH;
- East Bend, Rabbit Hash, KY;
- Edwardsport, Edwardsport, IN;
- Noblesville, Noblesville, IN.
The agreement springs from a legal action announced by Spitzer against Cinergy and other utilities in September 1999. The lawsuit charged that the companies were violating the Clean Air Act by making major modifications to expand or extend the life of their older coal-fired power plants without installing required pollution controls.
Spitzer's action against Cinergy and the other utilities marked the first time a state directly sued out-of-state power plants for violating the Clean Air Act. Since commencement of the legal action, a flurry of activity on power plant pollution has ensued, including:
- The federal government filed its own legal actions against numerous power plants;
- Several Northeastern states including New Jersey, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts have joined New York's lawsuits;
- New York Governor George Pataki has announced that strict new regulations would be issued to reduce pollution from New York power plants; and,
- Spitzer and the state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill are pursuing possible Clean Air Act violations by eight New York state power plants.
On Nov. 16, Spitzer reached a major $1.2 billion settlement with Virginia Electric Power Company under which the utility will sharply reduce emissions from its eight coal-fired power plants in Virginia and West Virginia.
Cinergy was formed in 1994 from the combination of The Cincinnati Gas and Electric Company and PSI Energy, Inc. Cinergy has 1.9 million electric and gas customers in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. The company reported revenues of $5.9 billion in 1999.
Cinergy is the fifth-largest consumer of coal in the United States, using some 25 million tons per year to fuel its power plants.
The agreement with Cinergy is expected to be finalized within the next month. The case is being handled by Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Peter Lehner and by Assistant Attorneys General Jared Snyder and Eugene Kelly.
ATTENTION NEWSROOMS: A radio actuality is available by contacting Attorney General Spitzer's toll-free, 24-hour news line at 877-345-3466.